The Senate Public Safety Committee today approved Senate Bill 141 by Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) that would improve the safety of California’s communities by requiring all inmates convicted of a sexually violent offense to be administered a comprehensive risk assessment before their parole hearing.
“No inmate convicted of a sexually violent offense and eligible for parole should be able to skip a public safety risk assessment due to a loophole in state law,” said Sen. Bates, a former social worker. “I’m grateful to have come to a bipartisan consensus with the Senate Public Safety Committee to help ensure that sexually violent offenders are evaluated before being potentially released.”
SB 141 requires the California Board of Parole Hearings to consider the results of a “comprehensive validated risk assessment for sex offenders” for inmates that have a prior conviction for a sexually violent offense before their parole hearing. The assessment specifically tests for an inmate’s likelihood to engage in sexually violent behavior. Sen. Bates partnered with San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan’s office to author the bill.
As the Legislature continues to expand the possibility of early release of inmates sentenced to life terms, SB 141 provides additional assurance that the people the state is releasing into local communities do not pose a public safety risk.
Current law requires the screening of inmates sentenced to a determinate term for their potential to engage in a sexually violent offense before they are released on parole, but not those sentenced to an indeterminate term. SB 141 closes this loophole and ensures that those sentenced to an indeterminate term are also evaluated.
SB 141 is inspired in part by a San Diego man who was convicted of murder and rape with a foreign object in 1989 and is now eligible for parole. When the San Diego D.A.’s office contacted the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for a risk assessment, they were informed that he would not be given one if granted parole because he was sentenced to an indeterminate term. The inmate previously was committed as a Mentally Disordered Sex Offender (MDSO) to Patton State Hospital for previous crimes, has been diagnosed with sexual sadism, and was convicted for a sexually violent offense that otherwise qualifies him to stay behind bars.
SB 141 will head next to the Senate Appropriations Committee for its consideration at a later date.